Opinion: Energy efficiency makes sense and doesn’t need a carbon tax

The following opinion — by Efficiency Canada executive director Corey Diamond and Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance executive director Mayne Morishita — was published in the Calgary Herald (print and web), then syndicated to the Edmonton Journal (print and web), as well as British Columbia’s The Province (web), and London, Ontario’s London Free Press (web) on August 2, 2019.

You can find thousands of Albertans working in energy efficiency if you look in the right places. They work in industries you might not think of as “green,” like construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services and utilities.

These are Albertans like Obi Sadden: In the 1970s, he was a firefighter for the oil and gas industry. Losing his job in the downturn of the 1980s, he was hired by a friend to install insulation. By 2004, he had started his own company — Energy Plus Insulation — which is now a thriving small business in his home of Medicine Hat. Sadden is an energy efficiency worker: Local businesses like his grow when this sector is made a policy priority.

The 51,711 Canadian energy efficiency establishments studied by Calgary’s ECO-Canada in 2019 generated $82.6 billion in revenue and $14.9 billion in employment income. It is projected that the Canadian energy efficiency workforce — numbering around 436,000 in 2018 — will swell by 36,000 this year. Employment in this sector grew by at nearly three times the growth of the rest of the economy.

Energy efficiency touches every part of the economy. A recent study from the University of Calgary found that Canada’s oil and gas sector, for example, is actually outperforming agri-food in terms of the efficiency of its end products.

One of the easiest ways to understand energy efficiency is to see it as a resource. It only costs 2.4 cents to save a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Alberta: This is cheaper than recent wind and solar procurements (although those prices are at historic lows), and cheaper than fossil fuels. If we think of efficiency as the “first fuel,” it is our least expensive source of energy.

Read the rest in the Calgary Herald.